by April Paffrath
I love to take cooking classes. Seriously, a cooking tour of Burgundy? Done. A pasta-making class from an Italian couple who make amazing wines as well? Yes, please. Learning to make macarons with a pastry chef? I must be dreaming. A week making bread in Paris? Was there ever any doubt?
All of these and more (oh, so many more) are some of the classes I've taken. One of my favorite places to take cooking classes is at Stir Boston in the South End. It's part of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo (No. 9 Park, Sportello, Drink, The Butcher Shop). She's taught some of the classes I've taken there (and she is funny and fantastic), but you're just as likely to take a class from some of the culinary cadre or a visiting guest.
Stir just sent out their list of summer courses and I already signed up for a couple. I wanted to take more, but our upcoming travels conflict with some that sounds amazing. There are a couple on my "maybe" list if my calendar opens up. What they're doing lately is focusing each class around a cookbook and exploring it through the dishes they make. What a great way to understand the theme and style portrayed in some of the best cookbooks out there. One wall of stir is cookbooks, top to bottom.
I've taken some classes there that are very hands-on, but the trend seems to be more cooking demonstration. (Ordinarily that could be a downer, because it calls to mind a huge, packed room and a poor view, but not here!) You really don't miss a thing! The class is 10 or fewer participants and you are *right* around the stove, so you see everything. They encourage a festive casual atmosphere where you ask tons of questions, share stories, and get up and peek in the pots to see what things look like. Along the way, you eat all the creations paired with amazing wine. So, it's really like a wonderful multi-course dinner out with the chefs—and plenty of chatting and plenty of learning. It's fantastic to go on your own and hang with like-minded food-lovers. It's also a stellar night out with a friend or a date. I love to go by myself but I also love to get a sitter and go with my husband for a tasty night out—it's like a restaurant, but a little better because you meet other people and talk to the chefs. I went with my awesome foodie friend, Holly, and I learned so much about holiday baking (a truly hands-on class), that I'm still coasting on what I learned. And I now make a very awesome macaron (Merci, Chef Maillard!)!
Stir is right next door to Plum, the Barbara Lynch Gruppo's produce store. It's tiny, bright, and carries amazing fruits and veggies—featuring none other than Siena Farms, where my CSA is from. In fact, my love of Siena Farms germinated from a class I took at Stir about eating locally. Wow.
(I love you, too, BU culinary program, but you don't have any upcoming classes. Went to a great couple of demos there.)
Go check out the class list and splurge on a night out dining and eating stove-side. It might be more spenny than some other classes, but the experience is just lovely. Well worth it for inspiration, recipes, and straight up fun. If you sign up for the classes based around Tom Colicchio's Craft of Cooking or Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures, I'll see you there. I'll be the one asking the most questions.